Monday, September 30, 2013

Marlins' Henderson Alvarez Throw No-Hitter in 1-0 Win over Tigers; Geovany Soto Leads Rangers to Wild Card Tie

Players of the Day for Sunday, September 29, 2013

American League

Geovany Soto
Breaking a 2-2 tie in the sixth with an RBI double, Geovany Soto later homered in the eighth to complete the Texas scoring for a 6-2 win over the Angels, completing the sweep and extending the Rangers' winning streak to close out the season at seven straight.

The win was critical, as the Rangers ended the regular season tied with Tampa Bay - a 7-6 winner over the Blue Jays - for the second wild card spot. The two teams will play a Monday night wild card tie-breaker at Texas, the winner heading to Cleveland for another "sudden death" one game wild card playoff.

The winner in Cleveland will move on to face Boston in the seven-game, AL divisional series.

Cleveland took the top spot in the wild card by winning their tenth straight, a 5-1 triumph over the Twins. Their efforts gave them the top spot and home field for the one-game playoff with the Texas-Tampa Bay survivor.

National League

Henderson Alvarez
When the Tigers took the field for the regular season's final game with a lineup consisting largely of bench-warmers, they probably were aware that they might not score many runs, but it may never have occurred to them that they would be no-hit by Miami starter, Henderson Alvarez.

Alvarez dueled with Justin Verlander, who blanked the Marlins over six innings, then continued the no-hit bid through the seventh and eighth against a pair odf Detroit starters getting some extra work in - Doug Fister and Rick Porcello, respectively.

After he set the final three Tigers down in the ninth, Alvarez had done the improbable, though his teammates had been unable to score a run off the Detroit hurlers.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Tigers sent Luke Putkonen to the mound, who allowed back-to-back one-out singles to Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison, both of whom moved up a base on Putkonen's wild pitch to Adeiny Hechavarria, who eventually grounded to short for the second out, freezing both baserunners.

After walking Chris Coughlin to load the bases, Greg Dobbs was at the plate when Putkonen uncorked his second wild pitch of the season, sending Stanton to the plate with the winning run.

Alvarez, who was in the on-deck circle, joined with his teammates in celebration over the 1-0 no-hit victory. While Miami's season was a flop - they finished with the worst record in the NL, at 62-100 - at least it ended on a high note.

Alvarez plunked Prince Fielder with two outs in the first inning en route to his history-making performance, setting down twelve straight from the first inning until shortstop Hechavarria booted a Jose Iglesias grounder for an error in the fifth.

Going through the sixth, seventh and eighth without mishap, Alvarez got two outs in the ninth before walking Andy Dirks, but then struck out Matt Tuiasosopo to complete his nine innings of hitless ball. He threw 99 pitches, 66 of which went for strikes and struk out four Detroit hitters, improving his record for the year to 5-6.

Today's Trivia: Who was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2007, and the league MVP in 2011? (answer tomorrow)

Yesterday's Answer: The last Cincinnati player to win either the Cy Young or MVP award was Joey Votto, MVP in 2010.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Carlos Santana, Michael Bourn Lead Indians into Playoffs; Pittsburgh gets Top Wild Card as Neil Walker, Marlon Byrd Lead Six HR Attack

Players of the Day for Saturday, September 28, 2013

American League

Michael Bourn
Michael Bourn and Carlos Santana each delivered clutch, two-out hits to drive Cleveland to their ninth straight victory and secure at least a tie for a playoff spot with a 5-1 win over the Minnesota Twins.

Carlos Santana
While Scott Kazmir was fanning 11 and holding the Twins to one run over six innings, Santana socked a two-run homer in the fourth inning, followed by Bourne's two-out triple in the fifth that drove in a pair. Bourne later scored on a jason Kipnis single to complete the scoring for the Indians.

The win, coupled with Tampa Bay's 7-2 loss at Toronto and Texas' 7-4 win over the Angels put Cleveland in the driver's seat entering the last day of the regular season. Cleveland has a one-game lead over both the Rays and Rangers, who are now tied for the second wild card spot.

All three teams close out their seasons on Sunday. Tampa Bay takes the field in Toronto at 1:07 pm EDT, the Indians go for their 10th straight win and the sweep of the Twins at 2:10 pm EDT and the Rangers and Angels mix it up at 3:05 pm EDT in Arlington, Texas.

AL Wild Card Standings (through 9/28)
Team GB
Cleveland +1
Tampa Bay --
Texas --

National League

The Pittsburgh Pirates rocked Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo, socked six home runs and grabbed the top wild card spot in the National League with an 8-3 victory over the Reds.

Neil Walker
Marlon Byrd
Marlon Byrd homered and singled twice in four at-bats, drove in two runs and scored twice; Neil Walker mashed a pair of solo home runs - his 15th and 16th - as the Pirates hammered Arroyo for eight hits (five of them homers) and six runs over 4 2/3 innings.

Winning their second straight in their season-ending series at Cincinnati, the Pirates earned the right to host the one-game wild card playoff on Tuesday, October 1. Despite the loss, the Reds are still in the playoffs, taking the second wild card spot.

The series - and the season - wraps up today for both teams at 1:10 pm EDT at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.

Today's Trivia: Who was the last Cincinnati player to win either the Cy Young or MVP Award? (answer tomorrow)

Yesterday's Answer: The Pirates were last seen in the playoffs in 1992, when they won what was then the NL East.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Drew Stubbs, Jason Kipnis Drive Indians to 8th Straight Win; Lance Lynn Goes Six Scoreless as Cardinals Clinch NL Central

Players of the Day for Friday, September 27, 2013

American League

Jason Kipnis
Winning their eighth straight, the Cleveland Indians tied Tampa Bay for the overall wild card lead while maintaining a one-game edge over the streaking (five straight wins) Texas Rangers.

Cleveland hitters banged out 17 hits, downing the Twins, 12-6 in Minneapolis Friday night.

Drew Stubbs
Jason Kipnis singled, doubled and tripled in five at-bats, driving in a pair of runs and scoring twice. At the bottom of the order, Drew Stubbs went 2-for-4, socked a two-run, ninth inning homer, stole a base and scored three times to help the Indians continue their quest for the playoffs.

Combined with the Rays' 6-3 loss to Toronto and Texas' 5-3 win over the Angels, the AL wild card race can't get much tighter. With just two games left to the season, the Rays and Indians are deadlocked, with the Rangers one game back.

Al three season-ending series continue on Saturday. Cleveland plays at Minnesota at 1:05 pm EDT.

AL Wild Card Standings (through 9/27)
Team GB
Tampa Bay --
Cleveland --
Texas -1

National League

It's a familiar saga in the NL Central. The Cardinals clinched the division pennant while the Cubs sank further into the cellar - now 29 games out - as St. Louis got six innngs of shutout ball from Lance Lynn to topple the visiting Cubs, 7-0.

Lance Lynn
Lynn improved to 15-10, allowing four hits with nine strikeouts and no walks in a final tuneup before the playoffs. David Freese and Matt Holliday each slugged solo homers and Yadier Molina drove in three runs with a first-inning double and a fielder's choice in the fourth.

With the division wrapped up, the Cardinals have one more goal, to finish with the best regular season record and secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They are currently tied with the Braves, at 95-65.

In Cincinnati, the Pirates secured at least a tie with the Reds for the wild card, taking a 4-1 win in the opener of their three-game series. Pittsburgh needs to win one of the remaining two games in order to host the wild card playoff on Tuesday of next week. No matter how the series finishes, the Reds and Pirates will be the wild cards. The two teams battle again on Saturday at 1:05 pm EDT and finish up Sunday at 1:10 pm EDT. Sunday's game will be broadcast nationally on TBS.

Today's Trivia: Prior to this season, when was the last time the Pittsburgh Pirates were in the playoffs? (answer tomorrow)

Yesterday's Answer: Frank Tanana led the AL in strikeouts in 1975.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Alex Cobb Shuts Down Yankees in 4-0 Tampa Win; Jason Heyward 5-for-5 as Braves Tie Cards for Best NL Record

Players of the Day for Thursday, September 26, 2013

American League

Alex Cobb stymied the Yankees on three hits over seven scoreless innings as the Rays completed their sweep of the Yankees with a 4-0 victory, Tampa's seventh in a row.

Efficient, throwing 61 of 96 pitches for strikes, Cobb improved to 11-3, walking two and striking out four. Evan Longoria went 3-for-4 and drove in three of Tampa's runs, the other coming off the bat of Delmon Young, who hit a solo shot in the seventh inning off Yankee starter, Ivan Nova.

Alex Cobb
Joel Peralta and Jake McGee finished up, pitching perfect eight and ninth innings, respectively.

It was an emotional night for Mariano Rivera, who set down four batters in order between the eighth and ninth innings in his final appearance at Yankee Stadium. Manager Jo Girardi pulled him with two out in the ninth so that the crowd could deliver one final standing ovation to a Yankee favorite.

The Rays remained a game ahead of Cleveland and in position for the first wild card, which would give them home field for the one-game playoff. The Indians and Rangers also were winners Thursday, with the Rangers a game behind Cleveland with just three games left to play.

The Rays close out the regular season with three games at Toronto, while Texas finishes at home against the Angels and Cleveland plays their final three in Minnesota.

AL Wild Card Standings (through 9/26)
Team GB
Tampa Bay +1
Cleveland --
Texas -1

National League

Heyward: 5-for-5
With the three playoff entrants from the Central division - St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati - all getting a day off, there was no change in the division or wild card races.

Atlanta, however, tied St. Louis for the best record in the league with a 7-1 win over the Phillies in the first game of their season-ending, four-game series. The Braves and Cardinals have identical 95-69 records with three games remaining.

Jason Heyward had a big night for the Braves, going 5-for-5 with three doubles, a single and a solo home run. Heyward drove in one and scored twice as the Braves scored all seven runs in the first two innings.

The Cardinals close out the regular season at home, hosting the Cubs for three games, while the Reds and Pirates face each other for the final three games, in Cincinnati.

Today's Trivia: Nolan Ryan led the AL in strikeouts seven times in the eight seasons from 1972 to 1979. In 1975 his streak was interrupted by a teammate. Who was it? (answer tomorrow)

Yesterday's Answer: Sandy Koufax struck out 382 batters in 1965, pitching for the LA Dodgers.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Max Scherzer Wins 21st, Tigers Clinch AL Central; Daisuke Matsuzaka Goes 7 2/3 Scoreless as Mets Down Reds, 1-0

Players of the Day for Wednesday, September 25, 2013

American League

Max Scherzer won his 21st game of the season and the Detroit Tigers took the AL Central pennant with a 1-0 win over the Minnesota Twins.

Scherzer: 21-3
It was the third straight division title for the Tigers who seek a return to the World Series after losing last season to the San Francisco Giants.

On the road at Target Field in Minneapolis, Scherzer, 21-3, allowed just two hits in seven scoreless innings, struck out 10, but issued six walks. Regardless of the excessive bases on balls, Scherzer's performance capped off one of the finest seasons for a pitcher in some time. With his pitch count at 123, manager Jim Leyland decided to sit Scherzer after seven innings, leaving the rest of the game in the hands of the bullpen.

Jose Veras and Drew Smyly got the Tigers through the eighth and Joaquin Benoit nailed down the pennant-clinching win with his 24th save, striking out two in a hitless ninth inning.

Scherzer will be the only pitcher in the AL with 20 or more wins. The next-closest are Bartolo Colon and C.J. Wilson, each with 17. In the NL, there are no 20-game winners. Jordan Zimmermann failed in his attempt to win his 20th in a 4-1 loss to the Cardinals.

Looking like a solid choice for the AL Cy Young award, in addition to the gaudy, 21-3 record, Scherzer is fifth in the AL in ERA, at 2.90 and second to Texas' Yu Darvish in strikeouts, with 240 in 214 1/3 innings. His 0.97 WHIP is tops among AL hurlers.

Elsewhere in the AL, Tampa Bay eliminated the New York Yankees from playoff contention with an 8-3 win in New York. Kansas City also fell out of the wild card race, losing 6-0 in Seattle. Cleveland, a 7-2 winner over the White Sox holds the second wild card, a game behind the Rays. Texas continued to keep its hopes alive with a 7-3 win over Houston. The Rangers trail the Indians by one game. The Rays and Indians have each won six straight.

NOTABLE: Will Middlebrooks drove in seven runs with a pair of homers - a three-run shot and a grand slam - as Boston hammered the Rockies, 15-5. The Red Sox should finish with the AL's best record. They are 96-63, holding a two-game edge over Oakland with just three games left to play.

AL Wild Card Standings (through 9/25)
Team GB
Tampa Bay +1
Cleveland --
Texas -1

National League

Daisuke Matsuzaka
Cincinnati fell to four games behind St. Louis in the NL Central and remained one game behind Pittsburgh for the wild card as Daisuke Matsuzaka shut the Reds out on four hits over 7 2/3 innings, allowing four hits, walking two and striking out six.

Matsuzaka missed most of the season due to injury, but returned to the Mets in late August. In seven starts, he's compiled a 3-3 record.

The Mets topped the Reds for the second time in the three-game series which closed out Wednesday. Matt Latos (14-7) gave up four hits over seven innings, but allowed a third-inning run, taking the loss as the Mets' bullpen preserved the 1-0 victory.

Pittsburgh also lost, 4-2, to the Cubs, keeping the Reds just one back. Al three Central Division leaders - Cardinals, Reds and Pirates - have already clinched playoff spots. The final three games of the season will determine positioning, though the Cardinals need just one more win or one more Pittsburgh loss to secure the division title.

Today's Trivia: The modern (since 1900) NL record for strikeouts in one season by a pitcher is 382. Who holds that distinction? (answer tomorrow)

Yesterday's Answer: Don Drysdale led the NL in strikeouts three times, Sandy Koufax, four times, but Steve Carlton led the league in strikeouts five times, all with the Phillies.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Michael Wacha Throws One-Hitter in St. Louis Win; Michael Brantley, Jason Giambi Lead Wild Win for Indians

Players of the Day for Tuesday, September 24, 2013

American League

Jason Giambi
Heading into the ninth inning with a 3-2 lead over the White Sox, the Cleveland Indians appeared to be on their way to a fifth straight win, retaining their one-game edge over Texas in the wild card race. They would call on closer Chris Perez and eventually win the game, but the way in which they did so was not what they had in mind.

Perez allowed solo homers to Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza, blowing the lead and the save, putting the White Sox up 4-3, the Indians coming to bat with one more chance to tie or win the game in the bottom of the ninth.

Michael Brantley
With one out, Michael Brantley, who had kept the Indians in the game with a single, a homer and two RBI, singled to right, representing the tying run. After Mike Aviles struck out, Jason Giambi was called upon to pinch hit with two down and the game - and possibly the season - on the line.

Though seldom used, the 42-year-old slugger with 437 career home runs came through with a booming blast to right field which plated the tying and winning runs, sending the home crowd into delerium with the walk-off, 5-4 victory.

The win kept the Indians a game ahead of the Rangers, who themselves were 3-2 winners over Houston, with five games left to play. In New York, the Rays eliminated the Orioles by topping the Yankees, 7-0, Baltimore falling to Toronto, 3-2 in 10 innings. Kansas City lost to Seattle, 4-0, putting them four games behind Cleveland; the Yankees, five out and all but finished for the year.

AL Wild Card Standings (through 9/24)
Team GB
Tampa Bay +1
Cleveland --
Texas -1
Kansas City -4
NY Yankees -5

National League

Michael Wacha
The St. Louis Cardinals maintained their two-game lead on the Pirates in the Central division thanks to the outstanding gem of a pitching performance turned in by rookie hurler Michael Wacha, who came within one out of throwing a no-hitter in just his ninth major league start.

Wacha got down to the final out against the visiting Nationals, but Ryan Zimmerman provided the spoiler, lashing a ground ball up the middle for a single, the only hit against Wacha on the night. With just a two-run lead, Wacha was pulled in favor of Trevor Rosenthal, who got the final out of the game by inducing a ground ball to first by Jason Werth, preserving the win for Wacha and a 2-0 St. Louis victory, reducing the Cardinals' magic number to three for the NL Central title.

Wacha walked two and fanned nine over his 8 2/3 innings on the mound, throwing 112 pitches, 77 for strikes. He is 3-1 since being called up August 10, getting his first major league win in June before being sent back to AAA Memphis in the Pacific Coast League.

The Cardinals have one more game remaining with the Nats, at 1:45 pm EDT in St. Louis before closing out the regular season with three games at home with the Cubs.

Pittsburgh remained two games back of the Cardinals with an 8-2 win at Chicago; the Reds fell to the Mets, 4-2, and are three games out.

Today's Trivia: Who led the NL in strikeouts more times, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax or Steve Carlton? (answer tomorrow)

Yesterday's Answer: Cardinal hurler, Dizzy Dean, led the NL in Ks from 1932-1935.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pirates and Reds Clinch Playoff Berths; Starling Marte, Shin Soo Choo Provide Heroics; Alex Rios, Derek Holland Leads Rangers' Rout

Players of the Day for Monday, September 23, 2013

American League

Alex Rios
Derek Holland pitched a six-hit shutout and Alex Rios hit for the cycle, as the Texas Rangers kept their playoff hopes alive with a 12-0 pounding of the hapless Houston Astros, losers of 10 straight.

Derek Holland
Holland walked one and struck out nine, going the distance in his second shutout of the season and seventh of his career. The win improved his record to 10-9 on the year.

Rios, acquired from the White Sox earlier this season, got the rangers on the board early, socking a double to left that knocked in a pair of runs. In third inning, Rios reached on an infield single and later scored on a bases-loaded walk to David Murphy. After hitting a solo home run - his 18th - in the fourth inning, Rios ripped a shot to the right-center field gap for a triple to complete the cycle, driving in Elvis Andrus in the process. He finished 4-for-4 with four RBI and three runs.

Rios did not get another at-bat. With the game already out of hand, manager Ron Washington made mass replacements, saving his starters for upcoming games.

It was the third cycle in the majors this year. Mike Trout of the LA Angels on May 21, and the Astros' Brandon Barnes on July 19, both turned the trick against Seattle.

AL Wild Card Standings (through 9/23)
Team GB
Tampa Bay +1
Cleveland --
Texas -1
Kansas City -3
NY Yankees -4
Baltimore -5

National League

Shin Soo Choo
Both the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates clinched playoff spots on Monday as the Cardinals dumped Washington, 4-3, the Reds dropped the Mets, 3-2, in 10 innings and Pittsburgh took down the Cubs, 2-1.
Starling Marte

Pittsburgh's win came by virtue of a ninth-inning, pinch-hit solo homer off the bat of Starling Marte that broke a 1-1 deadlock as the Pirates opened their three-game series in Chicago with a win.

Cincinnati's victory was even more dramatic, as Sin Soo Choo singled home Devin Mesoraco in the bottom of the 10th inning, the walk-off hit Choo's third, in six at-bats. Choo's single in the second got the Reds on the board with a 1-0 lead.

The Reds and Pirates remain tied for the two wild card playoff spots, at 90-67, both two games behind St. louis in the NL Central.

Cincinnati hosts the Mets Tuesday at 7:10 pm EDT in the second game of their three-game series. Pittsburgh plays game two in Chicago at 8:05 pm EDT.

Today's Trivia: What pitcher led the National League in strikeouts four straight years, from 1932 through 1935? (answer tomorrow)

Yesterday's Answer: Five. Reggie Jackson played most of his ball for the A's, Yankees and Angels, but spent a year as a Baltimore Oriole and began his career with the Kansas City Royals.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Oswaldo Arcia Drives in Six for Twins, but A's Win, Clinch AL West; Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons Lead Braves to NL East Pennant

Players of the Day for Sunday, September 22, 2013

American League

Arcia: HR, 6RBI
Rookie Oswaldo Arcia was 3-for-4 and drove in six runs for the Twins, but it was not enough to prevent the A's from completing the sweep of their four-game series and capturing the AL West for the second straight season with an 11-7 victory.

Arcia singled home the Twins first run in the first inning, but the A's countered in the bottom of the second, plating six, highlighted by Coco Crisp's 22nd home run of the year, a three-run shot that gave the A's a commanding lead.

In the third, Arcia sent his own three-run blast over the fence in right, getting the Twins back to within two runs, but the relentless A's scored single runs in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings before Arcia finally drove in two more with a single in the ninth, completing the scoring.

With the West pennant in hand, the next quest for the A's is home field. They are 93-63, chasing Boston (95-62), for the best record in the AL. Detroit, with a five-game lead over Cleveland in the Central, is 91-65, and needs just two more wins or two Cleveland losses to wrap up the division.

Meanwhile, Cleveland has won four straight and the Rays took three straight from the Orioles, putting the Rays and Indians in good position to grab the two wild card spots. Texas, a 4-0 loser in ten innings Sunday, is 1 1/2 back with six games left on the schedule.

The Rays have one more game with the O's before opening a three-game series with the Yankees in New York on Tuesday. Tampa Bay finishes with three games in Toronto.

Cleveland, having taken four straight from the Astros, have two games at home with the White Sox before closing out their season on the road for four in Minnesota.

Texas, now 1 1/2 behind the Indians and in danger of missing out on the post-season, has seven games remaining, all at home. They open a three-game set with Houston on Monday, then host the Angels for four, beginning Thursday.

AL Wild Card Standings (through 9/22)
Team GB
Tampa Bay +1/2
Cleveland --
Texas -1 1/2
Kansas City -3 1/2
NY Yankees -4
Baltimore -4 1/2

National League

The Atlanta Braves clinched the NL East when the Nationals lost to the Marlins, 4-2, on Sunday, then went out and celebrated on the field with a 6-2 victory over the home-standing Cubs.

Freddie Freeman
Andrelton Simmons
Freddie Freeman went 3-for-4, socking his 23rd home run of the year to give the Braves a 2-0 lead in the first, driving in his 104th and 105th RBI, third in the league.

Andrelton Simmons went yard twice, with a solo homer in the fourth and a two-run blast in the eighth, and closer Craig Kimbrel finished up, giving up a pair of hits in the ninth, but no runs, for his league-leading 49th save.

At 92-63, the Braves currently have the best record in the league, but the Cardinals (91-65) and Dodgers (90-66) are close. The best record will get home field for as long as they remain in the playoffs.

Atlanta went wire-to-wire to the title after a 12-1 start to the season gave them a big edge.

All that's left to be sorted out is the NL Central, where the Cardinals have a two-game edge on the Pirates and Reds, currently tied for the two wild card positions. Washington is five games back, but with just six to play, have run just about out of time.

Today's Trivia: Reggie Jackson played for five teams, all in the American League. Can you name them all? (answer tomorrow)

Yesterday's Answer: Despite being one of the great home run hitters of all time, Reggie Jackson on hit 40 or more twice, knocking 47 in 1969 and 41 in 1980. In 21 major league seasons, Jackson is 13th all-time, with 563 home runs.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ivan Nova Hurls Complete Game as Yanks Down Giants; A.J. Burnett Throws Seven Strong as Pirates Drop Reds

Players of the Day for Saturday, September 21, 2013

American League

It's a little strange to have interleague games so close to the end of the season, and maybe the people who make up the schedules should reconsider this for future years, being that interleague contests will have an impact on pennant races.

Ivan Nova
The Yankees aren't complaining, however, taking their second straight from the Giants, who are a half game out of last place in the NL West. Ivan Nova pitched his second complete game in less than a month, his third of the season, regaining the form he displayed when he went 16-4 for the Yanks as a rookie in 2011.

Nova blanked the punchless Giants on six hits over the nine frames, walking one and fanning seven. He needed just 108 pitches to put away the visitors while his teammates collected six runs on seven hits for the 6-0 victory.

Nova improved to 9-5 on the year, more importantly, keeping the Yankees three games behind the Indians in the quest for the second wild card berth. New York bypassed both Baltimore and Kansas City. The O's lost their third straight in a 5-1 defeat at Tampa Bay; the Royals dropped a 3-1 decision to Texas, who remains 1/2 behind Cleveland.

The Yankees will be seeking the series split when they take the field against the Giants at 1:05 pm EDT, Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

AL Wild Card Standings (through 9/21)
Team GB
Tampa Bay +1/2
Cleveland --
Texas -1/2
NY Yankees -3
Kansas City -3 1/2
Baltimore -3 1/2

National League

A.J. Burnett
A.J. Burnett gave the Reds a run in each of the first two innings - the second on a solo homer leading off the second by Zack Cozart - but after that he was nearly untouchable, allowing just one more hit over the subsequent six innings, to lead the Pirates to a 4-2 win over visiting Cincinnati.

Following Cozart's homer, Burnett sandwiched a walk to Ryan Hanigan between three strikeouts, en route to fanning 12 on the day. The Pirates responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning on Russell Martin's 15th homer of the season, then took the lead in the bottom of the sixth, when they got to Reds' starter, Homer Bailey, for another pair of runs.

The win moved Pittsburgh back to a one-game lead over the Reds in the wild card race. The Pirates are two games behind St. Louis in the NL Central; the Reds, three back. The team with the best record gets home field for the one-game playoff between the two wild cards, so the Pirates, for the moment have the upper hand.

The two teams settle up on Sunday at 1:35 pm EDT in Pittsburgh. The series is tied at a game apiece.

Today's Trivia: How many times did "Mr. October," Reggie Jackson, hit 40 or more home runs in a season? (answer tomorrow)

Yesterday's Answer: The .301 batting average that won the batting title for Carl Yastrzemski in 1968 came a year after he won the triple crown and was also the only average above .300 in the AL that season.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Alex Rodriguez Sets Grand Slam Record, Yankees Win; Boston Clinches AL East; Jordan Zimmermann's 2-Hit Shutout Leads Nationals

Players of the Day for Friday, September 20, 2013

American League

A-Rod: Slam King
Alex Rodriguez stroked a seventh-inning grand slam to right field, leading the Yankees to a 5-1 win in the opener of their three-game home series with the San Francisco Giants.

It was the 24th grand slam for Rodriguez, breaking a tie with Lou Gehrig for the all-time career lead. Rodriguez had tied Gehrig last season, and had been on the disabled list most of this year but took the opportunity to break a 1-1 tie off reliever George Kontos to set the new record.

With the win, the Yankees kept pace with the Rays and Indians the two leaders for the AL wild card spots. Tampa Bay, currently in the #1 position, topped Baltimore, 6-5, in 18 innings, while the Indians jumped past San Francisco into the #2 spot with a 2-1 win in a rain-shortened, seven-inning game in Houston. Texas lost to Kansas City, 2-1.

Boston Clinched the AL East with a 6-3 win over the Blue Jays.

AL Wild Card Standings (through 9/20)
Team GB
Tampa Bay +1/2
Cleveland --
Texas -1/2
Baltimore -2 1/2
Kansas City -2 1/2
NY Yankees -3

National League

Jordan Zimmerman became the National League's first 19-game winner, hurling a 2-hit shutout over the visiting Miami Marlins, as the Nationals cruised to an 8-0 victory.

Jordan Zimmermann
Zimmerman improved to 19-8, holding the Marlins hitless over the first 6 2/3 innings. A single by Donovan Solano in the sixth and a two-out single in the ninth by Chris Coughlan were the only base hits off the 6'6" righty, who fanned five straight near the beginning of the game, getting the final two batters in the second and striking out the side in the third inning.

It was Zimmermann's second shutout of the season, fourth complete game, and fourth straight win. He has not lost a start in the month of September and will likely be going for his 20th win the middle of next week.

In the wild card card race, the Reds beat the Pirates, 6-5 in ten innings, tying Pittsburgh for the wold card lead and for second place in the NL Central, two games behind the Cardinals. The Reds and Pirates, regardless of the outcome of games in their head-to-head series this weekend, will likely be the two wild card teams in the playoffs. They currently hold a five-game lead over the Nationals, with eight games left in the regular season.

Today's Trivia: The lowest batting average to ever lead the AL in average was .301. Who did it and why was winning it vitally important? (answer tomorrow)

Yesterday's Answer: the two players with the lowest batting averages to win the AL batting title since 1990 were Boston's Bill Mueller, who hit .326 in 2003 and Minnesota's Joe Mauer, who led the AL with a .328 average in 2008.

Friday, September 20, 2013

John Lackey's Complete Game Gets Red Sox into Playoffs; Hanley Ramirez Homers Twice as Dodgers Clinch NL West

Players of the Day for Thursday, September 19, 2013

American League

Boston took a step closer to the post-season, clinching a playoff berth with a 3-1 win over the visiting Orioles, the Red Sox getting a gem of a performance from starting pitcher, John Lackey.

Lackey: 2H, CG
Tossing a no-hitter through 7 1/3 innings, Lackey's quest for immortality was cut short by a massive, no-doubt-about-it, solo homer by Adam Jones, over the Green Monster in left field and into the parking lot.

Lackey got through the remainder of the inning unscathed, and nursed the two-run lead until the end, allowing a one-out single by J.J. Hardy in the eighth before retiring the final five batters for the complete game win.

Fanning eight and walking a pair of batters, Lackey threw 82 of 113 pitches for strikes, improving to 10-12 on the year. It was Lackey's second complete game of the season and the 16th of his career.

The Red Sox need only one more win or a Tampa Bay loss to clinch the AL East, which they lead by nine games over the Rays. The Red Sox are also looking to establish home field for the playoffs with the best record in the league. They are 93-61. Oakland, leading the AL West by 6 1/2 games, is 90-63. Detroit leads the AL Central with an 89-64 record.

Texas and Tampa Bay are tied once again for the wild card spots, ending their four-game series with an 8-2 Texas win, earning a 2-2 split for the series. With Cleveland's 2-1 win over Houston and Baltimore's loss, the Indians are 1/2 game back, the Orioles two games out, in the wild card. Kansas City was idle, three back and and the fading Yankees, 6-2 losers to the Blue Jays, are 3 1/2 out.

Tampa Bay opens a huge, four-game series with Baltimore in Tampa on Friday, while the Rangers start a three-game set at Kansas City. The final seven games for Texas are at home: three against Houston and four with the Angels.

Cleveland appears to have the easiest schedule remaining. They host Houston for three more games, then take on the White Sox for two games at home before traveling to Minnesota for a four-game series to close out the regular season.

The Yankees start a three-game series at home with the Giants, then remain at Yankee Stadium for three with the Rays. They close out the season with three games at Houston.

National League

Ramirez: 2HR, 4RBI
Clinching their first NL West pennant since 2009, the LA Dodgers rode the bat of Hanley Ramirez to a 7-6 victory over the Diamondbacks in Arizona.

Ramirez opened the scoring with a three-run blast in the third inning, but the D'Backs countered with six run in the bottom half of the inning off LA starter, Ricky Nolasco.

In the seventh, Ramirez tied the game with his second homer of the night, a solo shot that evened the score at 6-all, the game-winner coming an inning later, off the bat of A.J. Ellis, who socked a solo shot into the left field stands.

Ramirez added a pair of singles to finish 4-for-5 for the night, raising his batting average to .351, though he lacks the number of plate appearances to qualify as the league leader. He has only 291 at-bats this season, but has 20 homers and 57 RBI. The NL batting leader is Colorado's Michael Cuddyer, hitting .331. Atlanta's Chris Johnson is second, at .327. Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates is third, with a .325 average.

With the pennant in hand, the Dodgers now have the luxury of casting into the playoffs, though they may have sights set on getting the best record in the league and home field for the playoffs. Atlanta leads, at 90-62; St, Louis leads the Central with an 89-64 record. The Dodgers are 88-65, and close out the season with a trio of three-game series, starting with the Padres and Giants on the road, before returning home to close out with three against the Rockies.

Today's Trivia: Since George Brett led the AL in batting with a .329 average in 1990, only twice has the AL batting crown been won by a player with a lower average. Who were these two hitters and in what years did they win their batting titles? (answer tomorrow)

Yesterday's Answer: Al Oliver won the NL batting title in 1982; Tim Raines won it in 1986.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Desmond Jennings Gets Redemption in 12th as Rays Top Rangers; Adam Wainwright Stars at the Plate in St. Louis Victory

Players of the Day for Wednesday, September 18, 2013

American League

After misjudging a line shot off the bat of Leonys Martin resulting in a two-run second-inning triple, all Tampa Bay center fielder Desmond Jennings wanted was a chance for redemption.

Jennings delivers
game-winner for Rays
It took ten more innings, but finally, in the bottom of the 12th, Jennings delivered the eventual game-winner, a two-out single to right field that plated pinch-runner, Sam Fuld, for a 4-3 Tampa Bay victory.

The win for the Rays was their second of three in the four-game series with Texas, leaving the Rangers a game behind the Rays in the wild card race, but still clinging to a 1/2 game edge over Cleveland for the second spot.

Jennings finished 3-for-5, with another single and a double, but was left stranded on both occasions. The Rays had tied the game at 2-2 when Sean Rodriguez socked a two-run homer off Texas starter, Derek Holland, and the game remained at that score until the 11th, when each team scored a run in their half of the inning.

With Baltimore, New York winning and Kansas City beating Cleveland, 7-2, the AL wild card situation became even tighter, with all six contending teams within 3 1/2 games of each other, the five vying for the final wild card all within 2 1/2.

The Rangers and Rays wrap up the series Thursday night, 7:10 pm EDT at Tropicana Field in Tampa.

AL Wild Card Standings (through 9/18)
Team GB
Tampa Bay +1
Texas --
Cleveland -1/2
Baltimore -1
NY Yankees -2 1/2
Kansas City -2 1/2

National League

Adam Wainwright wasn't pitching as well as he normally does, so he let his bat do the talking as he led the St. Louis Cardinals to a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies.

The Cardinal starter improved to 17-9 with a stellar plate performance, going 3-for-3 with a pair of RBI and a run scored. In 7 2/3 innings of work on the mound, Wainright surrendered three runs on 10 hits, walking one and getting eight Rockies on strikeouts, throwing an incredibly-high 89 of 112 pitches for strikes.

Wainwright:
3-3, 2RBI
Wainwright's better contributions were at the plate and on the bases, however. After giving the Rockies a 2-0 lead in a shaky first inning, Wainwright doubled in the Cardinals' first run and then tied the game, scoring on Matt Carpenter's single to right.

In the fourth, Wainwright gave his team the lead at 3-2, singling home Yadier Molina. Molina singled in another run for the Cardinals in the fifth, before Wainwright allowed the last of the Rockies' runs in the sixth for the 4-3 final.

The St. Louis win pushed them to a two-game lead over the Pirates, losers of three straight, in the NL Central. Cincinnati defeated Houston, 6-5, in 13 innings, and are 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis. All three teams are virtually assured of reaching the playoffs, though the Cardinals find themselves in the enviable position of leading the division. The Pirates and Reds, should they continue on to capture the two NL wild card positions, would have to play each other in a one-game playoff.

St. Louis leads the series at Colorado, two games to one and wraps up on Thursday afternoon at 3:10 pm EDT at Coors Field in Denver.

Today's Trivia: Now the Washington Nationals, the Montreal Expos were a NL franchise from 1969 to 2004. During that span, the team produced two NL batting champions, one in 1982, the other in 1986. Who were these Montreal batsmen? (answer tomorrow)

Yesterday's Answer: Bill Madlock won back-to-back NL batting titles in 1975 and '76, then went to the Pirates, winning two more titles in 1981 and 1983.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Leonys Martin, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus End Rangers' 7-Game Skid; Mike Leake, Jay Bruce Lead Reds' 10-0 Win over Astros

Players of the Day for Tuesday, September 17, 2013

American League

Ian Kinsler
Playoff-style baseball is already being played in ballparks around the country, as the AL wild card race continues to entertain six teams in contention for the two spots.
Leonys Martin

Topping the bill of Tuesdya's slate of games was game two of the four-game series between the Rangers and Rays, the two teams currently in position to capture both wild cards.

Texas snapped a seven-game losing streak and regained a tie with Tampa Bay with a 7-1 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field in Tampa. Two players at the top of the order - Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus - and one at the bottom, rookie center fielder Leonys Martin, together accounted for nearly all of the Ranger runs.

Elvis Andrus
Martin was 3-for-4 with a solo home run, a pair of doubles and three scores. Leadoff batter, Kinsler, was 2-for-5 with a solo homer and three RBI, scoring twice, while #2 hitter, Andrus, went 2-for-3 with three RBI on a two-run homer and a pair of singles.

Texas starter, Alexi Ogando, gave up two hits and the Rays' only run, working five innings. The Rangers used five pitchers, the Rays, seven. With tired arms in both bullpens, Wednesday and Thursday's games could explode into offensive fireworks.

Elsewhere, Baltimore topped Boston, 4-3, Cleveland whipped KC, 5-3 and the Yankees lost their fourth straight, 2-0, at Toronto.

The Rays and Rangrs resume hostilities Wednesday night at 7:00 pm EDT. The series is tied at a game apiece.

AL Wild Card Standings (through 9/17)
Team GB
Tampa Bay --
Texas --
Cleveland -1/2
Baltimore -2
NY Yankees -3 1/2
Kansas City -3 1/2

National League

Leake: 8 scoreless
Bruce: GS, 5 RBI
With the Washington Nationals taking a double-header from the Braves, the Cincinnati Reds might be feeling a little pressure as they maintain a 4-4 1/2 game lead over the Nats in the race for the final wild card, but Jay Bruce made certain that the Reds would keep winning, as he drove in the Reds first run with a single in the opening frame, then added four more with a fourth-inning grand slam.

Bruce's excessive run-producing was more than what starter, Mike Leake, would need as he improved to 14-6 by shutting out the Astros over eight innings, giving up five hits and two walks while fanning six.

With the 10-0 win - Cincinnati's second straight at Houston - the Reds retained the 4 1/2 game bulge over the streaking Nationals while remaining 2 1/2 back of St. Louis in the NL Central. The Cardinals lead Pittsburgh by one game in the division.

NOTABLE: Sidelined since late July, Matt Kemp returned to the Dodgers' starting lineup on Tuesday and has already had an impact, going 4-for-4 with three RBI as the Dodgers hammered Arizona, 9-3, putting Los Angeles within one game of capturing the NL West pennant. LA plays at Arizona Wednesday and Thursday, and a win in either game, which, by default, would also be a Diamondback loss, would clinch the division.

Today's Trivia: Who won the NL batting title in 1975 and 1976, and then won it twice more - in 1981 and 1983 - for a different team? (answer tomorrow)

Yesterday's Answer: Boston swept the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series. The next year, the Chicago White Sox beat the Houston Astros, four games to none.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Rays Hand Rangers 7th Straight Loss as Wil Myers Leads 6-2 Victory; Padres' Andrew Cashner Tosses One-Hitter at Pirates

Players of the Day for Monday, September 16, 2013

American League

Wil Myers
It what may turn out to be an extended preview of the one-game playoff between wild card teams, the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays began a four-game series Monday at Tropicana Park where the Rays had the edge, coming away with a 6-2 victory.

While the Rangers can boast about playoff experience, their roster loaded with veterans, a couple of big differences in the game were provided by youthful Rays, as Alex Cobb struck out ten and allowed just two earned runs over eight innings and rookie Wil Myers went 2-for-4 with a double, his 13th home run, two scores and three RBI.

Myers got the Rays on the board first, with a solo shot in the second inning, then put the Rays back in front, 2-1, in the fourth, scoing on a sac fly by Desmond Jennings. He also delivered a two-run double in the decisive fifth inning when the Rays plated four, taking the lead for good and giving their starter some breathing room.

The Tampa Bay win put the Rays in the enviable position of claiming the first wild card, a game better than the Rangers, who now have lost seven straight in a mid-September collapse.

Game two of the series is slated for 7:10 pm EDT in Tampa.

AL Wild Card Standings
Team GB
Tampa Bay +1
Texas --
Cleveland -1/2
Baltimore -2
NY Yankees -2 1/2
Kansas City -2 1/2

National League

Andrew Cashner
For Pittsburgh, the road to the playoffs is definitely not a straight one. The Pirates remained tied for first place in the NL Central with the Cardinals as both they and St. Louis went down in flames on Monday.

St. Louis dropped a 6-2 decision in Colorado, while the Pirates were being limited to one hit by journeyman hurler, Andrew Cashner, en route to a 2-0 San Diego win that was Cashner's first complete game shutout in a three-year major league career.

Cashner had a perfect game spoiled by Jose Tabata, who singled leading off the Pirate seventh, but was erased an out later when Andrew McCutchen grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Cashner maintained his cool, setting down the final six in order, completing the one-hitter by pitching to the minimum 27 batters. He did not walk anyone, nor were there any errors, passed balls, wild pitches or hit batsmen. Improving to 10-8 on the year, Cashner threw 67 of 97 pitches for strikes. He struck out seven, got 13 hitters on fly balls and seven on grounders.

Pittsburgh will try to get a few more hits when they host the padres in game two of the four-game series, Tueday night at 7:05 pm EDT.

Today's Trivia: The 2004 and 2005 World Series were both won 4-0 by the AL teams. Which teams were they and which NL teams did they defeat? (answer tomorrow)

Yesterday's Answer: Lou Gehrig is fifth all-time in on-base percentage, at .4474. Ty Cobb is ninth (.4330) and Jimmie Foxx 10th, at .4283.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Alex Avila Homers Twice, Drives Detroit to 3-2 Win over Royals; Wilson Ramos Goes 4-for-5 as Nationals Stay Hot

Players of the Day for Sunday, September 15, 2013

American League

Normally, the Detroit Tigers rely on Miguel Cabrera or Prince Fielder to drive in their runs, but in Sunday's 3-2 win over the Royals, it was catcher, Alex Avila's turn to be hero for a day in Detroit.

Alex Avila
Avila drove in all three of Detroit's runs with a pair of homers - his 10th and 11th of the season - the first, a second-inning bomb of Royals' ace Jeremy Guthrie, staking starter Max Scherzer to a 2-0 lead, the second, an eighth inning solo shot, came in the bottom half of the inning after the Royals had tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the frame.

Both the Royals second run and Detroit's third came after Scherzer had finished his work on the mound, giving up just one run on five hits over seven innings, so he failed again - thanks to the run allowed by reliever Drew Smyly in the eighth - to earn win #20 on the season. Scherzer struck out 13 and walked one batter, but his pitch count of 116 prompted manager Jim Leyland to pull the starter after seven full. Scherzer, the major league leader in wins, has been stuck on 19 his last four starts.

The win kept Detroit's lead in the AL Central at five games over the Indians. The Royals are eight back in the division and 3 1/2 out in the wild card race.

Detroit opens a four-game series at home against the Mariners on Monday. Scherzer will likely get another crack at winning his 20th when the Tigers host the White Sox on Friday, opening a three-game series.

Wild Card Update: The A's completed their sweep of the Rangers, winning, 5-1, sending texas to their sixth straight loss. Tampa Bay also took it on the chin, 6-4, to remain tied with the Rangers for the two playoff spots. Baltimore and Cleveland both won, while Boston took care of the Yankees, sweeping them three straight, 9-2.

AL Wild Card Standings (through 9/15)
Team GB
Texas --
Tampa Bay --
Cleveland -1/2
Baltimore -2 1/2
NY Yankees -3
Kansas City -3 1/2

National League

Wilson Ramos
Wilson Ramos went 4-for-5 and drove in five runs, leading the Washington nations to their eighth win in their last nine, an 11-2 trouncing of the Phillies, a day after the Phillies had broken Washington's seven-game winning streak.

Ramos had three singles and a sixth inning solo homer as the Nationals crept closer to Cincinnati, clinging to the second wild card spot by 4 1/2 games. The Reds dropped a 6-5 decision in Milwaukee and remain 3 1/2 behind St. Louis and Pittsburgh in the NL Central. As it stands now, either the Cardinals or Pirates will take the first wild card spot, and, until recently, the Reds seemed to have the second slot sewn up, but the Nationals refuse to die.

Cincinnati and Washington don't play each other, but it could get dicey. With 12 games left, the Reds play their next six on the road - three at Houston and three at Pittsburgh. Then, they host the Mets for three and finish at home with three more against the Pirates. While the Red play the Mets, September 23-25, the Nationals will be at St. Louis before closing out the regular season at Arizona.

In Sunday's win, Nats' starter, Jordan Zimmermann improved to 18-8, leading the NL in wins. Zimmermann allowed two runs on seven hits over seven inning, striking out seven, with a pair of walks. No other NL pitcher has more than 16 wins.

Washington opens a three-game home series with NL East leading Atlanta on Monday.

Today's Trivia: Between Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb and Jimmie Foxx, which player had the highest career on-base percentage? (answer tomorrow)

Yesterday's Answer: Ted Williams is the career leader in on-base percentage, at .4817. Babe Ruth is second, .4739.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A's Bartolo Colon Shuts Down Rangers in 1-0 Win; Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt Smash Dodgers in 19-3 Giants' Win

Players of the Day for Saturday, September 14, 2013

American League

Colon: 16-9, 2.73
The demise of the Texas Rangers continues. Earlier this season, the Rangers seemed on their way to running off with the AL West. In August the surging A's caught them, and this month flew past them in the standings. Meanwhile, the Rangers had a grip on the first wild card slot, but after losing their fifth straight, and second straight to the A's, Texas is now tied with Tampa Bay for the two wild card spots, with identical, 81-66 records.

Bartolo Colon stifled Texas bats Saturday, scattering seven hits and one walk over eight innings in a 1-0 A's victory, Oakland's fourth straight win. Colon struck out seven and threw 77 of 108 pitches for strikes before turning the ball over to closer, Grant Balfour, who walked one in the ninth, but picked up save #38. At 16-9, Colon is tied for second in wins and his 2.73 is second-best among starters in the AL. Balfour is fifth in the league in saves.

Oakland scored the only run of the game in the first inning, when Brandon Moss doubled home Josh Donaldson off Texas starter Yu Darvish, who pitched exceptionally-well, but still was saddled with the loss. Darvish gave up only four hits, walked one and fanned 10, leading the AL with 256 Ks.

The A's will be seeking the three-game sweep of the Rangers when the two teams take the field at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington, Texas, Sunday at 3:05 pm EDT. Oakland leads the AL West by a commanding 5 1/2 games.

AL Wild Card Standings (through 9/14)
Team GB
Texas --
Tampa Bay --
Cleveland -1 1/2
NY Yankees -3
Baltimore -3 1/2
Kansas City -3 1/2

National League

Brandon Belt
The Giants won't be heading into the post-season, but they at least took out a little bit of their angst against NL West-leading Los Angeles when they bombed the Dodgers, 19-3, Saturday.

Hunter Pence
Brandon Belt was 5-for-6, with a double, home run, three singles, four runs and six RBI, while teammate Hunter Pence scratched out a pair of singles and a grand slam homer in five at-bats, scoring twice while driving in seven.

The pair combined to drive in 13 of San Francisco's 19 runs. The Dodgers used starter Ricky Nolasco - who was hammered for seven hits and five earned runs, lasting just an inning and a third - and five relievers in the loss.

Of course, the Dodgers will get the last laugh. They are cruising toward the NL West pennant with an 11 1/2 game lead over second place Arizona. With the largest lead in any major league division, the Dodgers need just four more wins to clinch the division outright.

San Francisco has taken two of three in LA, the four-game series concluding Sunday at 4:10 pm EDT.

Today's Trivia: Who is the all-time career leader in on-base percentage? (answer tomorrow)

Yesterday's Answer: Barry Bonds holds the single-season record for on-base percentage. In 2004, he reached .609 percent of the time.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Boston Downs Yankees on Jerrod Saltalamacchia's Grand Slam; Pete Kozma Scores Twice as St. Louis Regains 1st Place with 2-1 Win


Players of the Day for Friday, September 13, 2013

American League

Jerrod Saltalamacchia
Jerrod Saltalamacchia's seventh-inning grand slam broke open a 4-4 tie, catapulting the Boston Red Sox to an 8-4 win over the Yankees in the opener of a three-game series at Fenway Park.

Boston forged a 4-0 lead off Yankee starter Hiroki Kuroda in the first inning, but the visitors gradually sliced into the lead, tying the game on a two-run double by Robinson Cano in the top of the seventh. Cano was 4-for-4 in the game.

Saltalamacchia was part of the Red Sox four-run outburst in the first inning, doubling and scoring a run. He finished the game 2-for-3 with four RBI.

New York could not hold back the Red Sox however, who moved closer to the AL East pennant with the win, their lead over Tampa Bay at 8 1/2 games.

The wild card race got even tighter, as the A's nipped the Rangers, 9-8, while Tampa Bay shut out Minnesota, 3-0, and Baltimore bettered Toronto, 5-3. The Rangers now hold only a one-game edge over Tampa Bay for the first wild card.

AL Wild Card Standings
Team GB
Texas +1
Tampa Bay --
Cleveland -1 1/2
NY Yankees -2
Baltimore -2 1/2
Kansas City -3 1/2

Boston and New York play game two of their series Saturday at 1:05 pm EDT.

National League

Pete Kozma
Taking back the lead in the NL Central, the St. Louis Cardinals opened a three-game series with Seattle with a 2-1, 10th-inning win.

Cardinal starter, Adam Wainwright, and Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma got into a heated pitching duel with the Mariners holding a 1-0 lead through 7 1/2 innings, but, in the bottom of the eighth, the Cardinals scored a run to tie the game, eventually sending it to an extra frame.

With one down in the eighth, Brock Peterson made it to second base on an error by Seattle second baseman, Nick Franklin. Pete Kozma came in to run for Peterson and promptly stole third base off reliever Charlie Furbush. Kozma then scored the tying run on a fielder's choice, staying in the game to play shortstop.

In the 10th, Kozma singled with two outs and advanced to third after successive walks to Matt Carpenter and Jon Jay, loading the bases. On a passed ball by Seattle catcher, Mike Zunino, Kozma scored the game-winner, sending the 40,000+ fans at Busch Stadium happily home.

St. Louis only had four hits in the game to 10 for the Mariners. Kozma went 1-for-1, scoring both of the St. Louis runs.

The Cardinals are now a game in front of Pittsburgh and 3 1/2 better than Cincinnati in the division.

The Cardinals host Seattle in game two of the series, Saturday at 7:15 pm EDT

Today's Trivia: What major leaguer holds the single-season record for on-base percentage? (answer tomorrow)

Yesterday's Answer: Babe Ruth's career batting average was .342; Gehrig hit .340 and Gwynn finished at .338.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Indians Crush White Sox, 14-3, Ryan Raburn, 3-for-3, 5 RBI; Freddie Freeman Helps Braves Get Closer to NL East Pennant in 6-1 Win

Players of the Day for Thursday, September 12, 2013

American League

Ryan Raburn
Gaining a wild card in the American League is not going to be an easy task this season, as there are no less than six teams in contention for two spots. Excluding Texas, which currently has a two-game lead for the first wild card, five teams are all within 2 1/2 games of each other, Tampa Bay being the current leader for the second wild card.

While the Yankees have taken three straight from the Orioles and no trail the Rays by just one game, winning three of four at Camden Yards, the Cleveland Indians refuse to go away. On Thursday, Cleveland opened a four-game series in Chicago by thumping the White Sox, 14-3, getting a 3-for-3 effort from Ryan Raburn which included a single, double and a first-inning, three-run homer.

The Indians went on to score in each of the first five innings, tallying seven in the fifth, Rayburn completing the scoring with a two-run single that put the Indians up by a dozen runs.

Thus, the Indians have themselves positioned 1 1/2 behind Tampa Bay and 1/2 behind the Yankees. Baltimore and Kansas City are tied, 2 1/2 behind the Rays.

Clevleand will go for its second straight win over the White Sox, Friday afternoon, at 2:10 pm EDT.

National League

Freddie Freeman
With Washington winning six in a row, Atlanta's clinching of the NL East division has been temporarily delayed, but the Braves need only any combination of six more wins or six Washington losses to head into the post-season.

Their quest was put more in sight with a 6-1 win over the Marlins, closing out a four-game series in Miami with the Braves taking three of four.

Freddie Freeman was part of the action, socking his 20th home run of the season in the fourth inning after singling and scoring in the third.

Freeman's two-run shot added insurance for Freddy Garcia, who allowed just five hits and one run over six innings, picking up his first win as a Brave. Freeman finished up 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBI and continues to look like a solid choice for MVP. After going 7-for-16 in the series with the Marlins, he's batting .309 and his 98 RBI are third-most in the league, behind Paul Goldschmidt (109) and Brandon Phillips (101).

The Braves open a three-game series with San Diego in Atlanta, but then go back on the road, meeting the Nationals for three games, September 16-18.

Today's Trivia: Of these three players: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Gwynn, who has the highest career batting average? (answer tomorrow)

Yesterday's Answer: In 1995, Albert Belle of the Cleveland Indians led the majors with 50 home runs and 52 doubles, making him the only member of his own 50/50 club. Amazingly, Belle did not receive the AL MVP award, which went to Boston's Mo Vaughn, even though Belle batted .317 to Vaughn's .300. The two tied for the league lead in RBI with 126, but Belle had 11 more home runs, scored 23 more runs than Vaughn, who also had only 28 doubles and led the majors in strikeouts (150).